ESPN's Buster Olney has reported and confirmed that the Boston Red Sox have acquired closer Andrew Bailey from the Oakland Athletics. The Red Sox will also receive outfielder Ryan Sweeney in return for Josh Reddick and two minor leaguers.
Earlier this offseason Boston GM Ben Cherington traded backup infielder Jed Lowrie to the Houston Astros for Mark Melancon, also a closer. Jon Heyman of CBS says that the Red Sox see Melancon more as a setup man in the Boston bullpen.
Bailey now fills the void left by Jonathan Papelbon, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in November. Injuries have plagued Bailey in his short career, mainly in 2011, but Boston feels that he can be a reliable closer for the future. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Bailey will earn a $3.5 million salary in 2012 and is under team control until 2014.
The end of the game should now be set for manager Bobby Valentine as he can used Alfredo Aceves in the seventh inning, pending he doesn't move to the rotation; Melancon in the eighth and the Bailey in the ninth. It is also a possibility that Daniel Bard moves back to the bullpen, which could give Boston one of the most feared pens in the game.
The move also puts Boston in great position to make additional moves that will help the team in 2012. Bailey is a very inexpensive closer, especially for what the Phillies are going to pay Papelbon, and the move frees up a lot of space on the payroll. Cherington can now use that money to pursue free-agent starting pitchers.
Ken Rosenthal reports that their best options will be Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswlat and Joe Saunders. He also thinks that they still have to ability to trade for Jair Jurrjens or Matt Garza.
With Bailey in Boston, Who Wins the AL East?
Sweeney can also make an impact for the 2012 Red Sox as he could become the Opening Day starter in right field. Boston will most likely give the job to whoever performs the best in spring training, whether it be Sweeney, Ryan Kalish or Darnell McDonald. There are also still free-agent outfielders available that could be appealing for Boston.
As long as Cherington can figure out the last part of the starting rotation, Boston should be the contenders that they usually are in the American League. They have brought David Ortiz back and haven't lost any other offensive starters beside Reddick and JD Drew, who split time in right field. Utility player Nick Punto will also be in Boston next season, playing the role left behind by Lowrie.
We all know that the offense is there and that the pitching staff is where many of the questions lay. This move solidifies the Boston bullpen and should give Cherington a variety of options. If all goes well, look for the Red Sox to be atop of the American League in 2012.